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Farming for Veterans

 Several organizations team with the government to lead homebound veterans with farming jobs. 

| BY Kent McDill

Assimilating military veterans upon their return to civilian life is a difficult process made worse by the difficulties created by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

While gardening has always been suggested as a treatment method, many organizations are taking that therapy a step further and creating opportunities for veterans to get involved in farming, as both a treatment and an occupation.

The website RV2A.org (Returning Veterans to Agriculture) is one of many organizations promoting farming as a way for veterans to work back into civilian life, find a new vocation, and deal with the matters related to PTSD and other veteran-related issues. RV2A is “dedicated to gathering and communicating resources for veterans who are interested in returning to or starting careers in agriculture and in rural communities.”

Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, endorses RV2A and the concept of farming as therapy and is quoted on www.rv2a.org saying “the skills and work ethic our veterans bring from military service are valuable assets when it comes to providing the food, fiber and fuel we need to keep American going strong.”

National Public Radio interviewed a former Marine with deployments to Afghanistan who has gotten involved in farming through the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture.

“So many years I’ve been in the world of destruction,’’ Tor Peery said. “Being infantry and in the Marine Corps, I have destroyed so many things. I just want to create now.”

With Arcadia, Peery works on agricultural efforts one weekend a month, and two full weeks during growing season. In one recent effort, the Arcadia volunteers constructed a 60-foot greenhouse in one day in the fashion of old-fashioned barn raisings.

Statistics show that 40 percent of military personnel come from rural environments, even though only 17 percent of American population lives in rural communities. Because of the rural emphasis among military personnel, the U.S. military provides a veterans liaison with the United States Department of Agriculture to find farming positions for veterans coming home.

“Many want to go back to those (rural) communities and we want to help them when they get there,’’ said military veterans liaison Lanon Baccam.

Through the seven-plus years of the Obama Administration, the USDA has spent $500 million in loans and other financial assistant to allow veterans to buy land and equipment for farming. “We like to help them start their own operations, and get on these farms that may be read to turn over,’’ Baccam said. “And there are benefits to farming or ranching that we know exist that you cannot see – the therapeutic benefits of working the land.”

Farming is a physical activity, which meshes well with the needs of veterans to do something energetic. It makes so much more sense than putting veterans in an office setting.

“So many are looking for really meaningful work, where effort in equals success out,’’ said Pam Hess of Arcadia. “Especially the combat folks, they are outdoor cats now. They don’t want to be in a tie, in a cubical taking orders from someone.”

There are veteran-focused farming initiatives at colleges with heavy agricultural programs. The University of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture department has a program called Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots which assists military personnel and their families to become farmers, ranchers and agriculture business entrepreneurs. The Department of Agriculture, the Small Business Administration, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense and state veterans program work in conjunction with the university to create opportunities for veterans to work for existing farms and ranches, or to open their own businesses in agriculture.

 



About the Author


Kent McDill

kmcdill@spectrem.com

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.